The transition to WFH has been relatively easy for Indianapolis-based Lora Teagarden, with a great home office already set up for her business, but ever-present is the emotional drain of COVID-19-related unknowns in the world at large.

What is your work-from-home space like?

My home office was likely originally a drawing room connected to the master bedroom in my 130-year-old queen Anne fixer-upper. When I first moved in, it had this hunter green and pink, Sleeping Beauty forest-style wallpaper… which I lived with for the first year until my master bedroom renovations were done. The home office originally was where I slept, kept important documents, and did any L²-related work. It’s also where I planned out the different projects for my home, which aptly gave it the moniker “the war room”, because I would stage attacks on different rooms in the house and then go perform the renovation work before retreating back to the one safe/construction-free space in the house.

When the master bedroom renovation was completed – which included removing the connecting door to the once-drawing-room, now-home-office – I renovated the space, removing the green wallpaper, and making it as clean and functional as possible. It has east and north light – great for working and drawing – four Ikea bookshelves full of drawing tools, books and reference guides, my sit/stand desk with two computer monitors, my great-grandfather’s drafting table, a couch (where my pups typically sleep during the day), and a walnut wall map I made that tracks travels – kind of a sad reminder in these times, but it also allows for a lot of wanderlust daydreaming. It’s possible that in the future the drafting table will move elsewhere to make room for another desk, but currently the room is a dedicated workspace for me.

What work do you do here?

I work for RATIO in Indianapolis, so my 8–5 (trying to maintain sanity by keeping clear work hours/separation) is work as a Project Architect with a team on various projects. That typically looks like Revit work, team meetings, code research, and email coordination.

I also own my own business, L² Design, LLC, so this workspace is where I draw sketches for both the ARE study guides and for the little architect’s alphabet book, as well as where I blog, search for inspiration, or plan the next home improvement project here at L2HQ.

Did you work from home pre-COVID-19? If so, how has the experience of remote working changed for you in the last few weeks?

RATIO is relatively flexible in their work hours, and I have worked at home for part days when needing to oversee a contractor or when finishing out a day after an offsite meeting. Thankfully because of my personal business, my home office was ready to transition to fully remote work.

Have there been benefits to working from home? Can you describe them?

Well, I’m sure my dogs would say yes, because they’re getting more walks and cuddles. I think it’s been somewhat easier to jump into the day knowing that I just have to get up, make coffee, and then walk into my home office adjacent to my bedroom. Another benefit would be monetary savings because of not eating out for lunch – though I do miss my local soup place.

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

My girlfriend and I decided to quarantine together, so we’ve been navigating habits and schedules and learning how to live together, while also navigating the new work from home environment we both find ourselves in right now. It’s challenging for sure, but so rewarding to be able to come downstairs (she’s set up office in the dining room) at the end of the day and relax with her. It has reinforced the importance of communication, which is also exceedingly important in remote work, as well.

What has been surprising? (either positive or negative)

The transition was surprisingly easy, and I feel as productive as I was previously. But I also surprisingly seem to tire faster – I think from the mental/emotional drain of COVID-19-related unknowns in the world at large. Trying to balance production and self-care has become important in ways it previously wasn’t.

Do you have any tips for creating successful working relationships remotely? With colleagues, clients and others?

Patience, empathy and communication. We don’t know what our coworkers are dealing with at home; we don’t know how they are mentally/emotionally/physically taking this change in the environment. Clearly communicate the tasks you are doing or need from them, give them space to complete them, and check-in as needed. I think one of the best things to hopefully come from this is the removal of the “time at desk” mentality where you have to be seen in the office during a certain period of time and are judged negatively if you are not. Everyone’s time looks different right now; it’s the output that matters. Get your work done, be professional, and give grace.

How are you managing the work/life juggle, and all the competing demands?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m doing my best to keep some semblance of work hours so that there’s a clear division between work and home. Otherwise, I think it would be too easy to just come in and work whenever/however long I please (probably too long). I realise this scenario is easier for me than for those who have young children at home.

It’s also been beneficial having the girlfriend here because she keeps me honest with my hours worked, as do the dogs and their tireless need for walks.

How are you staying connected with work, friends and family?

My sister lives in another state, so we were already used to the facetime-for-connection routine. I’ve probably increased the texting communication with my dad to keep an eye on him, as well as to keep touch with friends. Work has mostly transitioned to call or video meetings relatively seamlessly. It’s helpful that RATIO is a multi-studio office and had reinforced intra-office communication before this, as well as providing all of the IT software to make it happen.

What strategies are you using to switch off from work?

When I log out for the day, I either take the dogs for a walk straight away or grab a book and go sit on the couch/back porch (we’re slowly seeing the progression into spring/summer here) and read to de-stress before starting the evening. We’ve also been doing A LOT of puzzles.

What strategies are you using to lift your spirits and maintain mental wellbeing?

I think any of the above in the previous question has been helpful, especially reading. Maintaining some semblance of a schedule has been helpful for me, as well as working out in the mornings to start the day. Now that the weather is improving, we’ve also been spending chunks of time on the back deck on the weekends just relaxing and creating some sense of normalcy.

Lora Teagarden is a project architect with RATIO in Indianapolis and owner of L² Design, LLC. She is a recipient of the 2017 AIA Young Architects Award, which honours individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.